Monday, June 27, 2011

Reynolds's American Publishers

Many penny bloods were supposed to have been pirated by unscrupulous publishers in the United States, but that was not always the case. In Reynolds's Newspaper for 15 Jun 1851 there is a short article titled 'Testimonial from America to G. W. M. Reynolds' in which a letter "accompanied by a ring of massive value and exquisite workmanship" was received by the author. H. Long may even have been supplied the original Henry Anelay woodblock illustrations >

Testimonial from America to G. W. M. Reynolds.

The following letter, accompanied by a ring of massive value and of exquisite workmanship, was recieved by Mr. Reynolds on Monday last. The bearer was Mr. Wilkes, an American gentleman. The ring is engraved with a representation of the Phrygian cap, encircled by the motto of "Liberty, Fraternity, and Equality;" and inside the hoop is this enscription:- "George W. M. Reynolds, from H. Long and Brothers, May 1851." The highly flattering letter which accompanied this handsome gift, is concieved in the following terms:-

New York, May 15th, 1851.

G. W. M. Reynolds, Esq., London.

"Dear sir, -- Permit us, the publishers of your works in the United States, as a slight token of our admiration and respect for your splendid genius as an author and your liberal sentiments as a man, to present to you the accompanying ring. It is formed of the virgin gold of California -- the new State -- the last star which has been added to our glorious galaxy of free republics, and will not go inappropriately to one who has laboured so earnestly for democracy in the Old World, and expended thhe wealth of genius so profusely in the cause of human rights.

"We of America, hold that his liberal sentiments have consecrated the name of Byron, with a glory his aristocratic rank, or even his splendid poetical genius could never have attained; and when the works of G. W. M. Reynolds shall be shrined hereafter, as they must be, in the library of Historicall Romances, even the beauties of style, the elegance of diction, the correctness of detail, and all perfections of his composition will be secondary in the estimation of posterity to his just, liberal, and humane democracy which will shine resplendent above all:

"Accept then, sir, this slight token of regard from your American publishers, who only regret they are not able to offer the evidence of their high appreciation of your works in a more solid form.

"With sincere admiration and esteem,
"Your friends and obt. servants,
"H. Long and Brothers."

Friday, June 24, 2011

A Monster in the Human Form

Penny-a-Liners Phrase-Book, from the North Wales Chronicle 14 July 1846.

Penny-a-liners are a class of people so called because they are paid three-halfpence a line for what they write. Their meals are Accidents, their board and lodging Offences, and their clothes are generally got out of a Fire. These gentlemen have a phraseology exclusively their own. The terms most in use are printed in the following Phrase Book, for the use of persons who use newspapers and are puzzled sometimes to understand them :-

Devouring Element means Fire; as “The devouring element, now lashing the monument as if in anger, now running round it as if in sport soon razed it to the ground.” However, the “devouring element” is not applied to the fire, coal, or coke, or slate, or brick, which burns in the grate. Penny-a-liners do not say, “The leg of mutton was roasted in no time, by the scorching intensity of the devouring element of the kitchen.”

Electric Fluid is another word for Lightning; as, speaking of the fig-tree in a fig-tree court, a penny-a-liner would say, “The electric fluid struck the ill-fated tree on its topmost branch, and running down it with unusual celerity, leveled it with its mother earth.”

More easily conceived than described.-- There is an elegant termination to a difficult sentence, common to novelists and their unhappy brothers, Penny-a-liners.

Speaking of a gentleman who had been eating two shillings-worth of pastry, and could not pay for them because his pocket had been picked, it is usual to say, “When Mr. Alfred Spooney put his hand in his pocket, and, diving into its recesses, found he had not a penny, his feelings can be more easily conceived than described.” The last phrase, it will be seen, though rather lengthy, saves a great deal of embarrassing description.

A Monster in the Human Form.- This monster is generally a boy who has broken a window, or given a ran-away knock. Any little event is sure to be fathered on a “monster.” If a poodle is stolen it is the work of a “monster.” We recollect that Jones, when he was discovered in the Queen’s palace, was described as a “monster in the human form.” A Police-office is a great mart for “monsters,” and Newgate invariably contains one. “Monsters” abounded most at the time the Royal Exchange and House of Parliament were burnt down. A “monster” was supposed to be running about England “in the human form” burning everything.* The term, in fact, is always used when the author of an accident has not been discovered. We will be bound that, if the Thames is ever set on fire, it will be described as being the work of some “Monster in the Human Form.”

A Miscreant differs very little from the “monsters.” Perhaps he is a shade worse: for instance anybody who strikes a policeman is merely “a monster,” but if he strikes a woman he is a “miscreant.” A man is only a “monster” when he deserts his wife, but if he leaves three children chargeable on the parish, or takes away with him the key of the tea-caddy, then he is nothing but a “miscreant.”

Vital Spark is renewed as often as there is an accident. In the report of a murder there is always a “vital spark” brought in. If the “History of England” were to be written by a penny-a-liner, he would describe all the accidents and murders in the regular reporters’ terminology. 

“The body of Rufus was found, at two P.M. in the depths of the forest, when a medical man was immediately sent for. The restoratives usual in such cases were speedily applied, but it was found that the vital spark had fled. The King is said to have fallen by the hand of some monster in the human form.”

Launched into Eternity is a favourite expression that is always coupled with an execution. It means that a person was hung. The term is only applied to human beings. We do not remember an instance of a butcher ever being described, by a penny-a-liner, as launching a pig into eternity. -- Almanac of the Month.

*This is a reference to that “monster in the human form” Spring-Heeled Jack, who was said to be attacking women throughout London and its suburbs, at the time the Royal Exchange burnt down on 10 Jan 1838. The image of Spring Heeled Jack at top is from the Illustrated Police News, 28 December 1872.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Political Valentines

This Charles Jameson Grant newspaper cartoon is from Cleave’s Gazette, published by Benjamin Davy Cousins on 10 Feb 1838. I asked Mathew Crowther to identify the knavish personages depicted.

“Grant seems to have been quite fond of producing satirical 'line-ups' in which caricatures of four different political or social figures are represented and their various faults highlighted either via speech bubbles or captions. He issued a number of very similar prints to this one as part of the Political Drama series and as stand-alone satires.

The first two figures are Wellington and Cumberland; then comes Sir Robert Peel whose association with the "blue devils" of the Metropolitan Police led Grant to portray him either as a rat catcher, or in police uniform; next comes Earl Grey, whose increasing conservatism is derided as apostasy and I think the final figure is Viscount Melbourne. The Devil appears in a number of Grant's satires and is usually portrayed as a mischievous figure rather than a symbol of outright evil or menace. I would guess that Grant's decision to portray Melbourne in this way may be a satirical reference either to the Prime Minister's decision to introduce reforms to the established Church of England and to further relax laws governing Nonconformists and Roman Catholics, or to his decision to rebuff demands for a second reform act to introduce a more radical overhaul of the British political system.

Images like this give us some idea of Grant's own political leanings as, the fact that he hits out at the reformist Whigs as much as the Tories, suggests he sat somewhere at the radical end of the British political spectrum.”

Friday, June 17, 2011

The Boys from Clerkenwell

By John Adcock

James Malcolm Rymer, popular author of Varney the Vampyre and The String of Pearls, which introduced the monstrous Sweeney Todd to English mythology, grew up in Clerkenwell, the second son of Malcolm Rymer, engraver and print-seller, and Louisa Dixon, milliner. When Dickens wrote of Oliver Twist entering London he was describing the area James Malcolm knew well; the boundaries were between St. John’s Road and Saffron Hill.

As John Dawkins objected to their entering London before nightfall, it was nearly eleven o’clock when they reached the turnpike at Islington. They crossed from the Angel into St. John’s Road; struck down the small street which terminates at Sadler’s Wells Theatre; through Exmouth Street and Coppice Row; down the little court by the side of the workhouse; across the classic ground which once bore the name of Hockley-in-the-Hole; thence into Little Saffron Hill; and so into Saffron Hill the Great; along which the Dodger scudded at a rapid pace, directing Oliver to follow close at his heels.
James Malcolm Rymer was born 1 Feb 1814 at Holborn, London, and his first known dwelling was on St. John’s Street abutting that part of Clerkenwell known as the “Cow-Cross” district -- a district full of prostitutes, burglars, gin-shops, poverty, and half-starved, half-naked, lice-infested juvenile delinquents. Police and Ragged-school workers were routinely assaulted, the women fought as viciously as the men and gin-shops remained open on Sunday.

The Illustrated London News described this part of Clerkenwell on May 22 1847 as a place where “amid the dingy, swarming alleys, crowded with tattered, sodden-looking women, and hulking unwashed men, clustering around the doors of low-browed public houses, or seated by dingy, un-windowed shops, frowsy with piles of dusty, rickety rubbish, or reeking with the odour of coarse food; lumps of carrion-like meat simmering in greasy pans, and brown crusty-looking morsels of fish, still gluey with the oil in which they have been fried.”

“The keeper of the “fence” loves to set up in business there -- low public houses abound where thieves drink and smoke -- Jew receivers lurk at corners -- brazen, ragged women scream and shout ribald repartees from window to window. The burglar has his “crib” in Clerkenwell -- the pickpocket has his mart -- the ragged Irish hodman vegetates in the filth of his three-pair back. It is the locality of dirt, and ignorance, and vice -- the recesses whereof are known but to the disguised policeman, as he gropes his way up rickety staircases toward the tracked housebreaker’s den; or the poor, shabby genteel City Missionary, as he kneels at midnight by the foul straw of some convulsed and dying outcast.”
James Malcolm Rymer’s family was probably better off than most. He must have worked in his father’s shop, Rymer & Sons, with his brothers Gavin, born 1812, and Chadwick Francis, born 1816. Gavin (see Peep Show print immediately below) and Chadwick were engravers by profession, and by tradition. The boys’ grandfather was James Rymer, an Edinburgh engraver who had a conflict with one of his apprentice’s in 1781 that was recorded in Scotland’s Decisions of the Court of Sessions from 1752-1808.

In May 1776 James Rymer had taken an eleven year old boy as an apprentice and the papers were witnessed by Gavin Rymer, shoemaker, and Adam Richardson, “ditto.” The witness was probably James’s brother or son, and the namesake of James Malcolm’s brother Gavin. James Malcolm's other siblings were Thomas, born 1815, Malcolm, born 1820, and Louisa, 1826. Chadwick Francis Rymer had some success as an artist who specialized in “cattle” scenes and exhibited five oil paintings in London between 1843 and 1848.

Clerkenwell was north and slightly uphill of the City of London and Smithfield. After the Napoleonic wars the population swelled and fine streets became slums filled with workshops, tenements, squalid alleys and courts, millinery sweatshops and Ragged Schools. The Fleet River was a stinking sewer, outbreaks of cholera were common, and the Smithfield cattle market was a health hazard until it was removed in 1855. Clerkenwell was a vital centre for radicalism largely due to the poverty, crime and overcrowding. In 1832 the new police and the unemployed had a bloody clash in Cold Bath Fields which led to the ‘Clerkenwell Riot.’ Clerkenwell Green was a popular meeting-place for Chartist orators.

Clerkenwell’s grim House of Detention was built in 1616. Jack Sheppard and his mistress Edgeworth Bess were imprisoned there in 1724 but escaped by sawing through the bars. It was demolished in 1890. William Hepworth Dixon, writing in 1850 of The London Prisons, said that Clerkenwell “is low London of low London…”

“We take it for granted that Clerkenwell is known to every breakfast table in this Kingdom. To the careful reader of the police reports, the name of this district must be as familiar as the commonest household word… chief scene of violence and outrage which the capital has to boast. Although not so exclusively the haunt of thieves, burglars, prostitutes and vagabonds as St. Giles’s and the low neighbourhoods about the Broadway, Westminster, it is, nevertheless, far more remarkable for crimes of the darkest kind than either of those notorious localities. More murders and attempts at murder take place in Clerkenwell than in any other part of London….
…Threading his way from Newgate, through Smithfield market, along Cow-cross, and by Saffron-hill, into the heart of Clerkenwell, the pedestrian passes through some of the worst quarters of the great city… He traverses narrow dirty streets and courts, crowded and filthy as the by-places in Houndsditch, miserable and destitute of light, water, almost of air; he sees property dilapidated and falling to a mass of foul and ugly rubbish; children with pale and ghastly faces; forms hideous with premature disease, arising from the unnatural and unhealthy circumstances into which they are helplessly cast.”
In 1839 James Malcolm Rymer, a ‘civil engineer,’ was living in close proximity to the House of Detention at 7, Cobham Row. Mayhew and Binny described the area round the prison in The Great World of London (1862) as a place “where few people care to reside… it may account for the dingy and distressed appearance of the buildings that surround the jail in Coldbath Fields… in Cobham Row, the heavy white sashes to the casements, the curious iron-work, and the peculiar style of brick-work, strongly indicate the old-fashioned character of the buildings.”

Once past the prison Clerkenwell was described as “notoriously the hardest-working quarter of London,” filled with brass-founders, grocer’s canister-makers, brush-board makers, and undertakers. “Turning down Phoenix Place we see yards converted into saw-mills, and jets of steam bursting out of the midst of tiled sheds; and we hear too, the grating, hissing sound of machinery.” At the northern side of the prison wall was an unpaved ground where “boys have established their play-ground, and amuse themselves with pitch-in-the-hole, tossing for buttons, and games at marbles, or else they perform their gymnastic exercises on the thick rails and posts, placed across the broad rude pathway to obstruct the passage of cabs and cattle.”

James Malcolm lived in Clerkenwell until his marriage to Caroline Huttly in 1839 when he was 25 years old, then moved to Bloomsbury. Soon after, in 1842 he was to be found editing a sixpenny monthly, Queen’s Magazine: a Monthly Miscellany of Literature and Art. In 1843 he took up writing penny bloods for Edward Lloyd, starting with Ada the Betrayed; or, the Murder at the Old Smithy, which began as a serial in the first number of Lloyd’s Penny Weekly Miscellany and was then issued in penny numbers.

In an article titled “Popular Writing” Rymer wrote for Queen’s Magazine in 1842, shortly before he took his own advice, that “If an author then, wishes to become popular… he should, ere he begins to write, study well the animals for whom he is about to cater…

“But it may be said, How are we to account for the taste which maintained so long for works of terror and blood -- those romances which abounded with mysterious horrors, and reveled in the supernatural? Most easily. It is the privilege of the ignorant and the weak to love superstition. The only strong moral sensation they are capable of is fear. The dishes of horror served up by a Radcliffe, a Walker, or a Lewis, served as the piquant sauces to the plain meat, nicely done, of a Richardson, a Mackenzie, or a Burney. Is the superstitious terror of a nursery maid, who reads her allowance of rushlight with indescribable dismay, ‘The Blood Spangled Monk; or, the Inhuman Shreik,’ to be called a love of imaginative literature? As well we might accuse her of a sublime notion of the supernatural, when she threatens one of her infant charges with the immediate appearance of a mysterious personage, known in many establishments as ‘The Old Man,’ ‘Bogie,’ &c. The taste for the horrible is by no means surprising. It has been, and ever will be. There are millions of minds that have no resource between vapid sentimentality, and the ridiculous spectra of the nursery.”

*Edith the Captive; or, The Robbers of Epping Forest.* By James Malcolm Rymer,
Illustrated by C. F. Sargent and C. Bonner, 104 Nos. London: John Dicks. May 12, 1860.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Corporal Punishment and Private Perversion



E.M. Sanchez-Saavedra

A disturbing theme in many school stories that appeared in English boys’ journals was the spectre of flogging. The nineteenth century, despite Victorian genteel stereotypes, was full as brutal an era as those which had gone before. William Hogarth’s graphic “Four Stages of Cruelty” could easily have been redrawn with different costumes and lost none of their accuracy a century later. Both animals and people groaned under the whips, fists and boots of brutal masters. Horses, dogs sailors and slaves often died as a result.

Violence in many forms was perfectly acceptable in adventure yarns, but sexual topics were strictly taboo, except indirectly. Samuel Bracebridge Heming (1841-1901) had begun his career as a novelist with mildly racy adult fiction in the “Railway yellowbacks” after assisting sociologist Henry Mayhew with a penetrating study of London prostitution. Even after concentrating on juvenile adventure serials, Heming included elements of both sex and extreme sadism in his famous Jack Harkaway stories and other works.

Implied sex rears its head fairly often in the Harkaway saga. Jack and Emily have a son, Dick and Hilda have a daughter, Monday and Ada have a son, while Mr. Mole has several offspring by various non-caucasian wives. At least one illustration shows Mole and wife number three in bed together. Among the secondary characters, Smiffins/Bigamini is a fugitive bigamist. In continuations of the Harkaway series by Philip Richards and others, Captain Monastos seduces the wife of Petrus, while Thyra, a Greek dancing girl rescued from a Turkish harem, literally throws herself at Young Jack. Jokes about polygamy and Mormonism are plentiful in the series.

The initial story, Jack Harkaway’s School Days, contains some restrained and properly Victorian material about Jack’s estranged parents, but also some curiously sado-erotic scenes between adolescent Jack and his headmaster’s cruel wife. In consequence of careless stone throwing, Jack manages to injure Mrs. Crawcour’s hand and is condemned to a flogging by Mr. Mole, while Mrs. Crawcour watches. Mole trusses Jack to a wall and stretches him in the best style of a Torquemada:

“Get a cane out of Mr. Crawcour’s study. You shall punish him. I would do it myself if I could.”

Her face assumed the expression of a handsome but enraged tigress.

Mr. Mole...soon returned with a long, glistening, lithe-looking cane...

“Let him take off his jacket and waistcoat, and then tie his hands with that string, and haul it up tight, so that his hands will be over his head, and he will be standing upright and unable to escape you...”

...The cord ran through a brass ring firmly fixed in the wall about nine feet from the floor...Mr. Mole tied Jack’s wrists firmly together, and then hauled up the cord until his arms were drawn up over his head and he stood almost on tiptoe, so great was the tension.

The other end of the cord he made fast to a leg of the piano.

“He cannot move much now,” he said, with a grim smile.

“That will do,” replied Mrs. Crawcour, leaning back in the chair with an approving nod.

“Cane the little wretch as severely as you can, and go on until I tell you to leave off. It will be some satisfaction to me to see him suffer what he so well deserves.”

Jack’s face was to the wall, but he turned his head half round with a reproachful look.

How could one so lovely be so great a savage?

He could not understand it.

She made a sign to Mr. Mole to begin.

The senior master was a tall, thickset, well-built man, and a very strong blow from his hand was one which made itself felt,

He swung the cane round, and it descended upon Jack’s shoulders with a dull thud.

The boy set his teeth firmly together.

“She shall not have the satisfaction of hearing me cry,” he said to himself.

With well regulated sweep the cane descended time after time.

At every blow the victim’s frame quivered.

Still he did not cry out.

Mrs. Crawcour was annoyed at his fortitude.

“Harder,’ she said. “He doesn’t feel it. These boys have no feelings for themselves or others, it seems to me.”

Mr. Mole redoubled his exertions.

A low sob, and then another, which he could not repress, broke from Jack.

It seemed as if the tension of the rope was dragging his arms out of their sockets.

First one thin red line, and then others made their appearance.

It was blood which the cane had drawn forth.

Alarmed, Mr. Mole suggests stopping the flogging, but the headmaster’s wife is adamant. Finally, Jack faints.

“Dear me,” said Mrs. Crawcour, rising from her chair; “I had no idea that he was ill. How obstinate he is to be sure.”

Instead of feeling ill-used and vengeful, Jack falls in love with his tormentor. Jack Harkaway’s School Days is unique in that its obligatory punishment episode involves sexual gratification on the part of the headmaster’s wife. Mrs. Crawcour is described as

“...a very lady-like and not at all bad-looking woman, between thirty and forty years of age.

“Her hair was dark, her features regular and classic. “Her complexion pale, her eyes full, but wicked.

“Being a slight judge of character, Jack saw at a glance that she could be a firm friend, but a most determined enemy.

“It was a beautiful, but a very cold, cruel face.

“Yes; cruel is the word to be used in describing Mrs. Crawcour’s expression.”

This formidable succubus archetype recurs in much popular Victorian fiction, most notably as Ayesha, or “She Who Must Be Obeyed,” in H. Rider Haggard’s imaginative novel, She. She personally nurses the lad back to health, and he falls in love with her, (or at least becomes “spooney.”) At one point she confesses:

“Oh! if you only knew what a dreadful curse my temper has been to me all my life. Had it not been for my temper, I should not now be the wife of a schoolmaster in a country town.

“... I have been called a beautiful pythoness before now.

“She lowered her head, and her hair, escaping from a pin that held it, fell over her face, and she kissed his forehead.

“She smiled, and with rather a sad air, left the dormitory, her rich silk dress making music as it went along, and hanging gracefully about her symmetrical figure.”

Pretty hot stuff for a Victorian teenager!

In a later chapter, Jack breaks his collar bone in a football scrum against the rival boarding school and is nursed once again by the bewitching headmaster’s wife. She asks him,

“Have I been kind? Are you satisfied with me?”

“Oh, yes, ma’am. I should like to be ill forever, if I might always have so kind a nurse as yourself.”

She put her arms round his neck, and kissed his forehead, while she pushed back his curly chestnut hair from his temples.

“How would you like to have me for a mamma?” she asked.

“I would rather have you for--for----”

“Well, dear, for what? Speak out,” said Mrs. Crawcour in an encouraging tone.

“I was going to say for a sweetheart, ma’am.”

...”You are so lovely,” replied Jack.

“Am I lovely?” Mrs. Crawcour repeated, looking at her handsome and majestic figure in the glass with some satisfaction.

The hot blood mounted to Jack’s face, and made it burn.

“How you blush. Why do you blush so?” she asked.

“I don’t know, ma’am. It’s because I’m talking to you, I think.”

When combined with her husband’s fondness for his cane collection (about fifty of assorted sizes: “I call them my little persuaders,” he smirks,) these sequences are closer to Heming’s earlier boudoir yellowbacks than they are to Tom Brown’s Schooldays.

We have no record of the readers’ reactions to this kinky relationship, but it is never alluded to again. Jack goes on to rescue and woo Emily Scratchley (and rescue, and rescue her, ad infinitum) and finally to marry her after finishing his university course.

Interestingly, the flogging scene was not illustrated in any of Edwin Brett’s editions of the tale. In its first appearance in Frank Tousey’s Wide Awake Library, in 1879, the cover illustration depicted a scene that did not even apply to the story, showing a water fight in a school dormitory. Not until 1895, when Tousey reissued the Harkaway series, would the scene be illustrated, and never afterwards. Although stylized and almost mannered, the Wide Awake cover echoed a savage illustration for Boyhood’s Battles; or, the Ups and Downs of a Runaway (Hogarth House, ca. 1885,) showing “Mr. Hackchild” mercilessly beating an emaciated boy.

As at Eton schoolboy from 1853 to 1857, Bracebridge Heming was all too familiar with the frequent castigations administered by heavy-handed masters. On page 403 of Sir H. C. Maxwell Lyte’s A History of Eton College (1440-1898), published by Macmillan & Co., Ltd., London, 1899, appears a woodcut of the infamous birch and block upon which so many boys suffered.

Heming’s Dick Lightheart, The Scapegrace of the School, provided another example:

Whenever a boy was caned, it was Venner’s duty to “horse” him; that is to take him on his back and, holding his wrists around his own neck, keep him in a favourable position for the head master’s blows…

In an instant Venner gave a quick jerk, and Dick found himself perfectly helpless and tightly held.

Then Venner turned around, and took up a position in an open space, so as to give the professor’s arm full play.

Swish went the cane through the air, descending on the offender’s back with a dull thud.

At first these were the only sounds to be heard, but as the pain increased to positive torture, and the elastic cane bent double and twisted around his jacket, actually cutting the cloth, Dick began to add his cries to the noise.

At length he screamed with pain, and kicked violently, receiving the blows on the calves of his legs…and it was not until the cane broke off at the top, by coming in contact with the boy’s boots, that the professor desisted from his efforts.

Adding imprisonment to injury, Dick is thrust into a mouldy cell to reflect upon his conduct, the object being to bring him to a proper sense of the duty owed to those who are set in authority over him.

As one ex-schoolboy of the period (possibly Algernon Charles Swinburne) put it, English public schoolmasters,

“one and all, appealed to the very seat of honour...flogging, used with sound judgment, is the only fundamental principle upon which our large schools can be properly conducted. I am all the better for it and am, therefore,


Bondage and “nursery games” have long been a mainstay of brothels. Public school corporal punishments seem to have created a burgeoning market for this form of gratification. To the schoolboy readers of Jack Harkaway, however, the subject probably struck too close to their own reality to be enjoyable as fiction. Later penny school stories retained the birching scenes, but concentrated on humorous schemes for avoiding the pain and “getting square” on the pedagogue.

George Emmett’s Hogarth House had "scooped" Edwin J. Brett in 1867 with the first true penny-dreadful school story entitled The Boys of Bircham School. This piece set the style for most other English boarding school serials, consisting of equal parts of adventure, cruel slapstick humor, and descriptions of more or less sadistic punishments administered by the faculty of "Birch ‘em” School. Later stories would feature "Thrashemwell College," “Stingwell School,” “Dr. Rodwell’s School,” “Dr. Whackley’s Lexicon College,” “Thrashem’s Public Grammar School,” "Scarum School," and so on, echoing Dickens' "Dotheboys (Do the boys) Hall" and its cruel master, Wackford Squeers (with the emphasis on “whack!”) from Nicholas Nickleby.

“Dominie Dobbs,” a schoolmaster character in Marryat’s Jacob Faithful (1834), observes:

In short, I have a...pleasure in hic, haec, hoc; and even the flourishing of the twigs of that tree of knowledge, the birch, hath become a pleasurable occupation to me, if not to those upon whom it is inflicted.

An early English poem, printed around the year 1500, called “The Birched School-Boy,” reveals the antiquity of floggings in the educational process:

I wold ffayne be a clarke

But yet hit is a strange werke;

the byrchen twyggis be so sharpe,

hit makith me haue a faynet harte...

My master pepered my ars with well good speede...

he wold not leve till it did blede.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Ace O'Hara

Ace O'Hara was an interesting British strip which appeared originally in the Daily Dispatch. Ace O'Hara was a nicely scripted science-fiction feature appearing in the Melbourne Australian Age from 8 Nov 1954 to 3 Aug 1964. The long-running Mercury Features strip was bylined Basil Blackaller until his death in 1958 when Tony Speer took over the illustration. The writer was Conrad Frost. First strip is directly below >

April 1 1961

Aug 3 1961

April 16-April 20 1963 >

June 3 1964

Aug 3 1964

*Tip o' the hat to Steve Holland for the updates.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Frederick Gleason (c. 1817-1896)

Frederick Gleason, born in Germany c. 1817, is regarded as the founder of illustrated journalism in the United States. The Congregationalist had a different opinion. “The first illustrated newspapers in this country were The Illustrated New York News, which appeared on June 8, 1851, and Gleason's Pictorial Drawing-room Companion, which was started on July 2, 1851, by Frederick Gleason.” This turns out to be wrong since Volume I No. 1 of Gleason’s Pictorial was published on 3 May 1851.

“I commenced the publication business in 1842, in the old Solly Building, Boston, issuing from there a number of novelettes and other cheap works.” These cheap romances of pirates, knights, and smugglers were written by Sylvanus Cobb Jr., Ned Buntline, Osgood Bradbury, A. J. H. Duganne, Dr. J. H. Robinson, Lieutenant Murray, and Harry Halyard.

“In 1843 I established the Flag of Our Union, the first really literary publication of its class, which soon brought hosts of imitators. Among these were the True Flag and the American Union… About 1850 the Flag of Our Union had a large circulation from which my income was $25,000 per annum.”

Inspired by the Illustrated London News Gleason issued 25,000 copies of Gleason’s Pictorial in 1851. One of his early employees was Henry Carter, known as Frank Leslie, who joined him in 1851 in the engraving department and remained two years. He later sold the newspaper to Maturin Murray Ballou in 1854 with circulation at 110,000 copies. Four years later the renamed Ballou’s Pictorial failed and Gleason took over publication once again.

In 1892 Gleason was publishing The Home Circle and Gleason’s Monthly Companion from 47 Franklin Street.

“When I commenced the publication of the Pictorial I published a paper of facts and not of fancy, as most of the illustrated journals of today do. If there was a disaster in mid-ocean I did not have my artists on the spot. In 1853 the artists of the United States presented me with a solid silver service valued at several thousand dollars.”

Gleason died 6 Nov 1896, the inmate of a home for the aged in Boston.

* “He was the Pioneer. Gleason Founder of Illustrated Journalism.” Weekly Argus News 3 Dec 1892.

**Images courtesy E. M. Sanchez Saavedra

Friday, June 10, 2011

American Highwaymen

At least half-a-dozen American publishers issued British highwaymen penny dreadfuls in series but there were very few American highwaymen. Edward L. Wheeler, author of Wild Ivan, had much greater success with Deadwood Dick, road-agent, which was published by Aldine in London and sent to all the colonies. Dr. John Hovey Robinson went back to the early days of American romances of the fifties. His serials appeared in Gleason's Pictorial and were kept in print by Beadle until the 1880's. The Nation described his works as 'unnatural backwoods romances.' Oll Coomes wrote Red Rob, the Road-Agent and Lady Jaguar was from the pen of William H. Manning writing under the pseudonym "Captain Mark Wilton."

*Images courtesy E. M. Sanchez Saavedra

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Introducing Moon Mullins

Advertisement introducing Moon Mullins 26 Jan 1927 and comic strip from 2 April 1935. The stereotypical character Mushmouth Jackson went from Jack Dempsey's sparring partner to Moon's chauffeur but was phased out circa 1953 along with others like Joe Palooka's sidekick. See "What's not so Funny about the Funnies HERE.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

A Slap at Slop

Mathew Crowther has found an extraordinary broadsheet format version of William Hone's 'Slap at Slop' which I have posted in 4 high-res images HERE.

Mathew explains "I already own a copy of the 1822 re-issue which was re-worked by Hone into a standard octavio-sized pamphlet but this original version is something else. It was published as a full-sized replica of a broadsheet newspaper running to 4 pages in total and containing a plethora of absolutely amazing woodcuts by Cruikshank. These early broadside editions are really rare and most of the copies of Slap at Slop you tend to see for sale today are re-issues which have been disbound from the bound volume of reproductions which Hone published in the 1820s."